The excitement was felt from the moment you walked through the conference doors at the 2018 Beyond School Hours (BSH) National Conference. The keynote speakers revved up the crowd, and the day began. Attendees scrambled to the breakout sessions to ensure they procured a spot. Although there were 250 breakout sessions, many filled up to capacity quickly.
The preconference leadership institute was all about “Re-Imaging Leadership” by recharging yourself, your team, and your work with children, and their families. The high energy kept us on our toes, and it proved to be a hit due to the hands-on activities that included improvisation work. The underlying themes were striving toward providing “take your breath away” service to those you serve, uncovering the essential elements for creating a team that is unstoppable, and leadership that is filled with excitement and creative ideas. Even on the last day of the conference, attendees were still discussing unique ideas that were discovered in this session.
Shalia Hayes and I had the unique opportunity to co-lead two breakout workshops teaching low-cost and no-cost ways to “Connect, Inspire and Challenge” during after-school hours. The workshop started with an energizing activity using Koosh balls to recall attendees’ names. The workshop quickly became alive as we moved from remembering names to creating a story as the Koosh balls were flying through the air. The sense of excitement and fun was apparent in the room, and the participants agreed that this was an engaging activity that they will take back to their programs.
A town-hall style conversation started the first day of the conference led by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. This conversation laid the groundwork for the start of the day’s breakout sessions, getting attendees thinking about achieving bigger outcomes, creating a larger impact, and making a more sustainable scale in efforts to improve early reading success. The conversations created lots of table talk and allowed for attendees to discuss how they can take this thought process back to their after-school programs to inspire learning all the time. Moderator Ron Fairchild, the Director of the Grade-Level Reading, ensured that the crowd understood the critical role they have in impacting a child’s ability to read on grade level.
The Orlando Marching Band got the 2,000 BSH attendees on their feet during the last luncheon. A unique solo was played by an incredible trumpet player who wore dark glasses. The crowd went wild when she finished playing. It was the one and only, Dr. Sylvia E. Lyles from the U.S. Department of Education. After she took off her disguise, she highlighted the true musicians, and then she bounded to the stage to address the crowd. Her conversation was as uplifting as her entrance. She discussed the importance of developing, implementing, and sustaining quality after-school programs today and in the future for our youth.
At the end of the day, the conference attendees continued conversations amongst one another and with the leaders of the breakout sessions; they discussed the importance of after-school hours. They felt a renewed support for the work they do. The energy and message was understood by all attendees that we can impact children Beyond School Hours.